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Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guide - How to maintain carbon fiber surfaces

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guide - How to maintain carbon fiber surfaces

As expensive carbon fiber is as an added option to vehicles from the manufacturer or aftermarket, it is fortunate that costly tools or products and intensive workmanship are not required to maintain its showroom finish.

For most carbon fibers, care and treatment is treated the same as painted surfaces. You can wash, decontaminate (clay), polish (if needed) and wax the carbon fiber.

The majority of the carbon fibers I have seen have a Polyester Resin Gel Clear Coat. The difference of the gel coat from the standard clear coat on painted surfaces is that it is very porous, will dry easily and oxidize quicker.

To prep your carbon fiber, you must wash the area and decontaminate (clay bar) it.

Here is a picture of my own neglected carbon fiber hood on my personal car. I have not polished this car in two years but routinely wash, decontaminate and waxed it.

As you can see, this is a very noticeable oxidation area on the hood. It is also known as “yellowing” by some car enthusiasts.

Just to show how severe and serious oxidation is for carbon fiber, I utilized a special paint microscope to thoroughly inspect the affected areas at a microscopic level. 

Severe oxidation on the carbon fiber.

Transition from the oxidized area to non-affected.

At this stage, you need to assess how affected your area is and determine what compound or polish you have to use to restore the carbon fiber to a showroom finish. You must start with a less aggressive foam pad and polish and gradually go more aggressive if needed be. I personally used a Flex XC3401 VRG Polisher, Lake Country White CCS Foam Pad and the Menzerna Power Finish 2500 to restore the carbon fiber's surface. Other polishes such as Optimum Hyper Polish, Meguiar's M205 can be used as alternatives.

A polishing machine is recommended to optimize restoration. A Porter Cable 7424XP is recommended for amateurs and novices, or a Flex XC3401 VRG for the experienced.

Using proper techniques and handling the polish and machine, you can finally see the lustre of the carbon fiber.

A polished area of the carbon fiber. A restored carbon fiber should reveal its weaves and patterns clearly.

A clean pad versus used pad when polishing the carbon fiber hood.

Fully restored carbon fiber hood.

The lesson in this blog post is that maintaining carbon fiber is not as intimidating as many think. However, it does require patience and time to do the work correctly. Start less aggressive and work your way up if needed be since it depends on the actual condition. 

Thanks for taking the time to read through the article, and if you have any additional comments or questions, please leave a reply in the comment box below.